As usual, the Tampa Bay Rays roster has been among the most stable in baseball.
Our entire pitching staff survived the first month of the year (meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees each made 9 different moves related to their pitching staffs in April, ranging from the Yankees signing Carlos Silva, to the Red Sox flip-flopping Aceves, Doubront and Okajima through their bullpen and Pauwtucket's). With Longo on the DL and Manny's retirement, we've seen two new Rays join the active roster, Casey Kotchman and Felipe Lopez. Both have made some contribututions in Longoria's absence.
On Tuesday, when Evan Longoria returns from the disabled list, someone is going to lose a roster spot.
Who should it be? And more importantly, how will the Rays divide at-bats once Longo returns?
Based on stats alone, the player who in my opinion should be packing his bags for Durham is Elliot Johnson. It's a close call, because Dan Johnson isn't exactly lighting it up either. However, based on his power potential, the Rays need to keep Dan around a bit longer. He's been hitting the ball better lately, as well.
In his first 25 at bats, Elliot Johnson has struck out 10 times, while slugging .280. While Elliot is a better glove man than Felipe Lopez, Felipe is slugging .379 and adds pop to a roster that (without Manny especially) sorely lacks it. I like Elliot's speed, but with the emergence of Sam Fuld, and with Johnny Damon talking over the DH role, the Rays starting 9 are far faster than anyone anticipated. This may be the fastest starting lineup in the American league.
With Longo back at 3rd base and in the 3-hole, the Rays face some interesting decisions on playing time. I expect that Zobrist will continue to get most of the playing time at 2B, and bat cleanup, with Matt Joyce playing RF against righties and batting fifth, and Casey Kotchman playing first and batting 6th. Against lefties, it might get interesting. While I expect we'll mostly see Zobrist play RF against lefties, we may see Zobrist playing some first base, with Sean Rodriguez at second and Felipe Lopez at short (or vice versa). We might also see Sean Rodriguez in right against some lefties.